WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — With sadness and sympathy, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya have expressed their regrets to the family of Sen. Jack Jackson, Sr., who died Sunday. He was 90.
“I offer my condolences on behalf of Jasmine, the Vice President and myself to the Jackson family,” President Nygren said. “I know that as an Arizona senator, the strength of his leadership in the Arizona legislature, and to be able to have his son, Jack Jr., to take over speaks to his dedication to public service.”
Sen. Jackson was born in Leupp, Ariz., lived in Teesto and later in Navajo, N.M. He was Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House) clan, born for Áshiihí (Salt People). His maternal grandfather is Táchii’nii (Red Running into Water) and his nali is Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water).
The late Sen. Jackson dedicated his life to his family, education, public service and his love of rodeo. He served 19 years as an Arizona state representative and senator. He passed away following a long illness, said his son, Sen. Jack Jackson, Jr.
“Thank you to his family for allowing such a great individual like Jack Jackson, Sr., to be shared with the Navajo people,” President Nygren said. “His track record of fighting for the Navajo people though his career is very much appreciated. Many thanks to the family of Sen. Jack Jackson, Sr.”
Sen. Jackson served in the Arizona State House of Representatives, representing District 3 from 1985 to 1998. He was then elected to the Arizona State Senate and served from 1998 to 2004.
Sen. Jackson was a lifelong educator, horseman and rodeo competitor. Sen. Jackson received his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees in secondary education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He was bestowed an honorary doctorate from Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., in 2019 for his tireless career as an educator.
In 2011, he was featured in a documentary film titled Navajo Oral History. The film was researched, photographed, edited and produced by the journalism students of Winona State University and Diné College. He said when he was 11, in 1946, he was sent away to school.
Unbeknownst to his parents, his brother and he were sent to the Chilocco Indian Vocational High School in Chilocco, Okla. It was there he learned to ride rodeo horses.
With his twin brother Dr. Dean C. Jackson, he organized the first professional Native American rodeo organization called the All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association, which became their passion.
He began his teaching career in 1957 at Window Rock High School as a social studies, health and physical education instructor. At Diné College, formerly Navajo Community College, he was athletic director, director of student affairs and head basketball coach. Eventually, Sen. Jackson became the director of the Office of Diné Education Philosophy which ensured that the uniqueness of the college was carried out with Western and Diné knowledge.
Sen. Jackson possessed vast knowledge of the Navajo way of life, culture and creation stories, and the building of Diné College from its beginning to today.
He said working for Diné College was “the best thing I ever did.”
He served as a member of the Navajo Tribal Council representing the Fort Defiance Agency from 1980 to 1984.
After consulting with his wife, fellow educator Eloise A. Jackson, he ran for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives where he served for 14 years before transitioning to the Senate chamber where he served for an additional five and a half years. In his final term as senator, he proudly served alongside his son, who was then a representative.
He was instrumental in the creation of Arizona Indian Legislative Day that occurs at the beginning of every session of the legislature and is ongoing to this day. It’s a day when all 22 of Arizona’s tribes make their voices and concerns heard at the Capitol.
Sen. Jackson was most proud of his bill ensuring Transaction Privilege Tax funds were allotted to tribal educational institutions in addition to the counties, towns and municipalities. The TPT law in 1999 provided $17.5 million in funding for Diné College over 10 years. This compact has been renewed for two more 10-year periods. It has heralded his commitment to education and is his greatest legislative legacy.
Sen. Jackson was executive director of the Navajo Nation Health Authority in the Office of Student Affairs and Native Healing Sciences. This led him to pursue becoming a medicine man. After many years, he was ordained in the Female Windway Ceremony and the Bowguard Ceremony.
He was one of the founders of the Navajo Traditional Healing Services Practitioners and Medicine Men Association. He served as president of the Native American Church of Navajoland from 1971 to 1975.
Sen. Jackson will be interred on Thursday, March 9, next to his brother at their family homestead in Teesto, Ariz. He was preceded in death by his daughter Janice A. Jackson and his wife Eloise A. Jackson.
He is survived by his children Ronald Jackson, Jack C. Jackson, Jr., and Dr. Florinda J. Jackson. He has five grandchildren: Rudy Ray Arviso, Amelia Grace Hubbell, Patrick Dean Hubbell, Kelly Marie Hubbell-Hinton, Reuben Jack Hubbell and five great-grandchildren.